The Second Phoenix Race Review
Kyle Busch led Joe Gibbs Racing with a seventh-place finish in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Meanwhile Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin battled through handling issues to finish 23rd and 28th respectively.
With one race remaining in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, Kenseth remains second in the point standings, but is now 28 points behind Jimmie Johnson. Kyle Busch remained fourth in the standings and is now 57 points behind Johnson and 23 points out of the third spot.
Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in fourth but would have to check up just after the restart when the 48 got loose and slowed in front of him. The loss of track position would drop him back outside of the top ten where most cars found the handling of their cars to be problematic all afternoon. Busch was able to maintain a position inside the top 15 for much of the afternoon while the crew made adjustments to his M&Ms Camry to help him turn better in the corners. Various pit strategies would shuffle the field several times throughout the race, but Busch was running just outside the top ten in 11th with 100 laps remaining. He would get back inside the top ten and was running ninth with 30 laps remaining just before the final caution of the afternoon came out. Busch managed to race his way to a seventh-place finish over the final 26 lap run to the finish.
Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota from the 14th position and was able to work his way into the top ten during the opening green flag run of the afternoon. Unfortunately his progress through the field would not continue as the Dollar General team struggled to find the proper balance to allow the No. 20 Camry to race among the leaders. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff would call for big adjustments to the car to help Kenseth turn better in the corners but the issues persisted for the majority of the afternoon as he drifted back outside of the top 20. He would eventually fall a lap down to the leaders which limited his opportunities to make a late run. Kenseth would go on to finish 23rd.
Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota on the outside pole after qualifying in the second position on Friday afternoon. He would hold the outside lane on the opening lap to take an early lead and continued to hold that top spot for the first 18 laps of the race. The No. 11 Camry would begin to suffer from handling issues however and Hamlin began to drop back in the field. He would eventually get loose and spin bringing out the day’s first caution on lap 51. Hamlin would manage to keep the car off the wall and bring it down pit road for four new tires and adjustments. Crew chief Darian Grubb and the FedEx crew would make adjustments to his car to help him turn better in the corners, but the problems persisted much of the afternoon. Hamlin would eventually fall a lap off the pace and went on to finish 28th.
Kevin Harvick won the race, followed by Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five. There were eight cautions for a total of 49 laps and 23 lead changes among 13 different drivers.